How To Get a Teaching Job

Getting Hired

So you’ve done everything required by your certification program to be eligible for hire, WONDERFUL! The next step is finding a teaching position and starting your new career. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011, school teacher employment is expected to grow 13% from 2008-2018. This growth should account for about 500,000 new K-12 teacher jobs by 2018, nationwide. Follow these helpful tips to ensure you are ready to land the perfect teaching job for you.

Research

There are many things to consider when choosing which teacher jobs to apply for, or which school is right for you. While it can seem overwhelming, this guide can help you make the best choices during your job search.

Research Teaching Jobs

Choose a District

When looking at which school districts are a great fit for you, there are a few options to consider:

Location

Your commute to work is important when deciding where you want to teach. Some areas have large districts that span over a wide geographic area and include many options for schools. Do a search from your home, as far as you are willing to commute, and look at the district(s) within that area, including charter and private schools. If there are multiple districts in your commute radius, give each careful consideration. While you can rank your school choices, consider applying to all districts within your area. Avoid narrowing your choices to a select few since the goal is finding a job and gain teaching experience. After a year of teaching experience is added to your resume, you will be more competitive when seeking a job at your favorite school or district.

NOTE: Rural districts tend to have a higher need for teachers and a smaller pool of applicants. If you are willing to move or commute to a more rural area that has openings in your license areas, you may find it easier to get hired.

Open positions

There are some school districts in every state that consistently have few open positions. While these highly sought school districts may be your top choice, you will want to look at districts that offer more opportunities and a greater chance to be hired.

Opportunity

The more certification area exams you pass, the more competitive for hire you become. By demonstrating subject area knowledge in more than one area, not only do you have more teaching positions to which you can apply, but school districts will often find you more desirable for hire since you provide additional flexibility in the subjects you can teach.

For example, if you are certified in Math, as well as an elective or science, you may be able to begin teaching in either one of those subjects and then eventually add the other if a position opens up at the same school. This happens most in districts and schools with a greater need for school teachers.

Attend Events

Most schools, including public, charter and private schools, hold job fairs and hiring events at different times throughout the year to allow candidates to introduce themselves and ask questions about both current and future open positions. Further, many districts keep available positions listed on their websites. You need to make sure you keep an eye on the district website to ensure you see the most current teacher jobs available and when the next job fair will be held. Keep in mind not all district regularly keeps their websites up-to-date on open positions, so don’t hesitate to submit an application even if your certification is not listed.

Interviewing

While the interviewing process can differ from school to school, here are a few ways you can prepare for any scenario you may experience.

Interviewing for a Teaching Job

What Principals Want

In asking a number of principals what they are looking for in a qualified candidate, the theme was consistent that principals want a candidate who is prepared for the position and has demonstrated they can handle adversity and problems in the classroom. In conjunction with completing all of the necessary training and testing that goes into becoming a certified teacher, the best candidates will have a desire to do something great through a passion for education and working with students.

Making a Great Impression

You’ve got all of the requirements and a passion for teaching, but now you need to put your best foot forward in the interview itself. Confidence and preparation will assure principals that you are ready to handle a classroom setting. Here are a few essential tips to follow:

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early to your appointment
  • Be courteous to everyone in the office and greet people with a smile
  • Bring copies of your resume and all supporting documents
  • Know about the school and district. Do a bit of research before to make sure you are prepared to answer and ask questions about that specific school.
  • Get on the district and school websites – know what they are focused on, know their philosophy and mission and know what kind of student population they serve.
  • Have a brief, but well prepared “commercial” or pitch about yourself. This helps to alleviate the nervousness at the beginning and sets the tone for the interview. Be ready for the – “tell me about yourself” – and have your key points you want to get across.
  • Be able to adapt to changing situations. Schools are busy and you may be asked to wait or take a brief pause in the interview so that a Principal can deal with an emergency.
  • Some principals will have a panel with them for your interview so that they can confer and rely on other opinions. They may also ask you to show competency in lesson planning or ask you how you would handle a myriad of situations.
    Know about the details of your progress with Texas Teachers. Be able to clearly explain what you have completed and what you need to complete with the program. Talk about what tests you have taken and which ones you will take. Let them know that you have your “ducks in a row” and are on top of all the details.
  • Dress professionally. Avoid “loud” or revealing clothing, excessive jewelry, or hair that is not groomed. Seriously – dress professionally – we keep hearing about inappropriate dress in the interview.
  • Make sure your cell phone is turned off or at the very least on silent
  • Chewing gum is never acceptable
  • Practice makes perfect –
    • Practice out loud in front of a mirror and don’t let yourself get away with Ums, and You knows and other annoying traits you might have when you get nervous
    • Video yourself – a large part of communication is non-verbal including your tone of voice and what you do with your hands and body. See what the interviewer sees by watching a video of yourself
    • Get a panel of friends or colleagues to interview you

What Will They Ask? Six Common Themes

1. Philosophy: The purpose of philosophy questions are to gain a better understanding of you and your educational beliefs. Questions often include:

Tell me a little about yourself.
Why do you want to work for our district/school?
Would you describe an experience you’ve had that’s helped prepare you for teaching?
Why did you choose to become a school teacher?What do you consider to be your biggest achievement? Why?

2. Assessment and Evaluation: In schools, we teach what we assess and we assess what we teach. Many new teachers believe assessments are quizzes, tests, exams, and finals. Assessment is much more. Principals need to make sure you understand and will be able to use informal assessment (observations, questioning techniques, class discussion, projects and rubrics) and formal assessment (quizzes, exams and benchmark tests) to improve student learning and increase efficiency of instruction. Questions typically include:

How do you evaluate lessons/achievement?
How would you determine grades for the lesson you described a few minutes ago?
What procedures do you use to evaluate students other than tests?
How would you use both informal an formal assessments?

3. Curriculum and Lesson Design: Principals need to verify you have a sound background and understanding of basic instructional strategies and pedagogy. Lessons should be planned with a clear learning objective, lesson delivery targets, learning styles, readiness and abilities, as well as multiple activities that keep the students engaged. The overall lesson should focus on student-centered learning. On-going assessment and closure are also key components of good, strong lesson plans.Questions about Differentiated Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Learning Communities are not uncommon. Common questions include:

Describe a good lesson. Tell me about the parts. How do you know it is good?
Learning Style: Discuss activities and delivery methods that target the Multiple Intelligences.
Learning Readiness: Discuss assessments and activities that identify different levels of learning readiness.
Learning Abilities: Discuss strategies that target the gifted learner, the average and the slow learner.

4. Classroom and Discipline Management: A lack of good management in this area is the most common reason for teacher failure. This theme may be included several times using different questions. In an urban school, classroom management may be the focus of the interview. Classroom Management is about routines, procedures, learning environment and protocols. Having well-prepared materials, lessons that engage the students and seamless activity transition help promote good classroom management. Discipline Management deals with setting up boundaries that promote respect in the classroom. Good classroom management will alleviate 90% of the discipline problems. The other 10% are dealt with through classroom protocols and rules. Progressive discipline is a good start in dealing with student discipline.It is important to have a repertoire of strategies that you can discuss when asked. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

What is your discipline philosophy? / Give me an example of how you used this philosophy.
How do you get students to do what you want them to do?
Describe your management style.
Compare positive and negative reinforcement and the effects of each on students.
What are rules and what are procedures? When do you use each?

5. Classroom Environment: Building a classroom environment that is warm, motivating, inviting and safe is critical to your success. You can be the most amazing instructor, but if there is hostility in your room, students will not be able to contribute to the lesson. Principals want to ensure you have the skills and strategies needed to make your classroom environment supportive of student learning. Questions you need to be prepared for include:

What would I see if I looked in your classroom?
How will your students know you care about them?
Describe how you are going to make your room a warm and inviting location that all kids want to be a part of.
You have a child who just moved into your classroom. What are you going to do to make him feel like he or she is part of your class?
How do you engage students? / How do you engage parents?

6. Professionalism and Development: Principals want to make sure you are going to be a team player. It is not uncommon for a principal to ask questions about your past history of dealing with others and adversity. The variety of questions is as vast as the category, so it can be hard to prepare for this theme. We have included several questions that are commonly asked:

What will make you a good teacher?
If I called your last supervisor, what would he/she say about you?
What would you include in your Open House presentation to parents?
How could you use team teaching to provide your students with a better education?
How do you keep your principal informed?

Other questions to be ready for – from the NEA website

How do you make sure you meet the needs of a student with an IEP?
How do you communicate with parents?
What are some of the trends, issues, and methodologies in education that relate to your specific curriculum area or grade level?
What can you contribute to our school community/teaching?
With so much content to cover with standards, describe your approach to long-term planning.
Give an example of differentiation in a classroom where you have worked.
How have you worked to be an advocate for students who are at-risk in your school?
Professional learning communities (PLCs) have become more and more common.  Describe any experience you have had with a PLC.
8 Teacher Interview Questions (& How To Answer With Confidence)

Marketability

Schools and districts receive many job applicants throughout the year. Standing out from all the other teacher candidates requires making yourself as marketable as possible. They need to see how valuable you will be for the school.

Marketability of a Teaching Job

Additional Certification Areas

Being certified in more than one area gives you options during your job search and gives the school options when hiring you. It also shows principals that you are Highly Qualified in more than one area, in case they have openings in the future. Also, some certification areas are in higher demand than others. Holding a certification in a higher need area makes you a greater need.

Certification areas in high demand:

  • Special Education
  • Bilingual
  • Math
  • Science
  • Technology

Classroom Experience

Teaching experience always helps. Having spent time in the classroom prior to your interview will make you more apt to answer questions and handle situations based on real teacher experience. Substitute teaching, volunteering in a school, or time as a paraprofessional educator help show you have classroom management experience. It also allows you to build critical relationships that may pay off in the future.

If you have spent time in a classroom, introduce yourself to the administration staff and get to know the principal. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, ask about possible open positions, and let them know you are interested in a teaching career full time.

Laura Candler

Laura CandlerLaura asked over 100 teachers to offer advice on what substitutes can do to help get themselves noticed by districts. Some of the responses can be found on her blog, Corkboard Connections.

Laura Candler is the creator of the Teaching Resources website and the blog Corkboard Connections.

Follow her on Twitter.

Portfolio

Your portfolio is an extension of your résumé and cover letter. It serves three basic purposes: a collection of all important official documents (Transcripts, Statement of Eligibility, etc.), a collection of sample work (lesson plans, discipline management plans, etc.), and ongoing reflection and refinement of teaching expertise, sample documents and related material.

Teaching Job Portfolio
The portfolio can easily be put together in a 3 ring binder. Use tabs that can guide you to any section/document. Avoid using a large binder that includes very few documents. The portfolio should look clean, simple and professional.

The Basics

Philosophy of Education

This is a brief essay that expresses your overall viewpoint of education. Keep it positive and non-political. This is about what education means to you and how it taps into your passion as a person.

Your philosophy of education should be 1-2 pages double spaced, well organized and thoughtful. You need to write to your reader. What does this person need to know? It should include the following:

  • Your role as a future educator
  • What is important to you about teaching
  • How do you help students learn & develop as individuals
  • How your personal characteristic & approach to teaching impact the learning & development of students
  • Passion for teaching should come through within this philosophy
Why I Want To Be a Teacher

This short essay should include what inspires you to enter the field of education as a career. If you need some ideas, check out Should I Be A Teacher? Here Are 24 Awe-Inspiring Reasons To Consider It.

Supporting Documentation

  • Letter of Interest, or your “Cover Letter”
  • Résumé
  • Certification Information/Documents
  • Letter of Eligibility and /or Statement of Eligibility
  • Copies of your exam score/registration receipt
  • Transcripts with degree(s) conferred.
  • New Grads – take your up-to-date transcripts showing you are currently working to receive your degree.

Advanced Items to Include:

While not necessary, including some or all of these items will take your portfolio to the next level.

  • Strategies for teaching any content area(s) you are targeting
  • Sample lesson plans – this is critical
  • Classroom Management Plan
  • Routines
  • Procedures
  • Materials
  • Discipline Management Plan

Other related materials. Include any other supporting documentation that is pertinent to the teaching position that you are seeking. For example, a Theater Arts candidate could include pictures/documentation on working with Children’s Theater.

Schools only want to put the best possible person in front of their students. They want to make sure that person will fit in the school culture and will inspire their students to succeed. If you want that position, you have to demonstrate that you can be the next great teacher they are looking for!

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